Beyond the tourist honeypots where sun and sea are the main attraction, Lesbos, Greece oozes history and culture for arty, alternative visitors. Among celebrated former residents, such as the Nobel Prize poet Elytis, painter Theophilos and – most famously – the ancient Greek poet, Sappho. Of course, you can laze away the days bronzing on sensational beaches, or drinking coffee in idyllic squares, but this unique island wants you to live a little, whether you’re into birdwatching, hiking or museum-going.
In the capital Mytilini, the Theofilos Museum is a treasure trove of one artist’s legacy – with more than 80 paintings inspired by folk art, history and mythology. It was founded by Mytilenian publisher and art critic Stratis Eleftheriades, aka Teriade, whose influence on Greek art led to his own museum: the Teriade Library-Museum in Varia. See works from his vast archives as well as notable 20th-century works by giants Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
With deep, clear waters, Lesbos has long drawn scuba divers. Lesvos Scuba Centre at Charmida Beach has 18 years of experience and a range of PADI-certified programmes. You can try a beginners’ course in the afternoon, book a three-day full certification, or choose one of the advanced open-water courses. If you’re really keen they offer excursions to more than 30 dive sites – from shipwrecks and caves to reef exploration trips.
Spring and autumn lure twitchers to witness migrating birds en route to Africa. The Kalloni Gulf wetlands rank among the best places to spot many of the 300 native and transitory species – among them are curlew, wood sandpiper, Kentish plover and citrine wagtail. Indigenous types include the red-breasted nuthatch – often found nesting in pine trees in early spring. For expert information, contact Eleni Galinou, who specialises in birdwatching and photography tours.
At Sigri on the west coast, the Natural History Museum sets out the island’s unique geological history, along with fossils and insights into the origins of the petrified forest. The Petrified Forest Parks contain the fossilised remains of rare trees formed by volcanic activity, more than 20 million years ago. Along marked trails, discover the remains of one of only two petrified forests in the world. Top tip: do the museum first to get a feel for the sights before heading to the parks.
Lesbos is an Eden for hiking and cycling. Coastal trails and inland hikes cover unforgettable terrain – with views of over-dense forests down to a dramatic coast. Well-maintained circular and point-to-point hikes are mapped by Lesvos Trails, ranging from short routes through olive groves around Plomari town to Mount Lepeymnosis and its rugged terrain. For experienced mountain cyclists, the 50km (31mi) route from Erissos along the Lava Trail will thrill. Get your bike rental from Molyvos Bikes.
To pretty much guarantee your own private place in paradise, look no further than Vatera beach. At 7km (4.3mi) in length, this pebble-and-sand strand simply cannot become crowded – even in the peak weeks of August. The main stretch can be found at the village of Vartera – with a sprinkling of tavernas in which to while away the hours over beers. This unravels outwards to more peaceful spots, further along, the beautiful coastline. With clear shallow waters, it’s perfect for families.
It’s a big island, which explains the variety of architectural styles: from Mytilini’s neoclassical mansions to mountain villages dominated by greystone houses and coastal settlements of pastel homes with terracotta roofs. Don’t miss the sahnisia-style dwellings with their protruding wooden windows. For Byzantine currents, visit the 13th-century Castle of Molyvos – or Mithimna – looming above the village in gothic splendour. The views out are idyllic at sunset.
With more than 20 distilleries, Lesvos is the home of ouzo. Distinctly aniseedy, the zero-waste byproduct of winemaking blends ingenuity with tradition. Try a tot in any traditional taverna – best with local mezes, such as sardeles pastes (fresh raw sardine) or gouna (sun-dried spiced mackerel). For an insight into the process, visit the Museum of Ouzo in Plomari: a taste experience at the distillery of Isidoros Arvanitis – one of the island’s largest, established in 1894.
There are a great selection of bars on Lesbos, but if you feel like exploring more of Greece you should check out some historical sites in Athens. As well as a number of great beaches nearby, there’s a great choice of boutique hotels and other hotels that you can book now on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.